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A Level Results Day Blog 2020: Mental Health Support

When A level results day is here!

Thursday 13th August is a big day for many 17 and 18 year olds in the UK. They’ve survived the changes to their education due to Covid-19 but they haven’t had the opportunity to sit exams in the same way they ordinarily would. Some may feel somewhat cheated, that A level examination time is somehow a rite of passage, a way of proving themselves and gaining the grades they need to go on to further study. For others, perhaps the pandemic situation may have alleviated their exam anxieties, they may feel that this has somehow been a near-miss. Whatever your feelings about A level results day, this year there has been a complete change to the lead up to results day but UCAS have confirmed that results day will happen as normal, so 13th August is still imprinted in many a young person’s mind.

The Practicalities: What’s the timeline for 13th August??

Emotionally charged individuals will be awaiting their results. Some expecting the best, others dreading the worst.

According to Host-Students (reference below), the practicalities and timings are as follows:

6 AM – It is at 6am that the results will be released. It’s advisable to check with your own education provider as to whether you will be able to pick them up in person this year.

8am – For those who have applied to university, it is at 8am that UCAS Track will go live and will show the decisions made by your chosen university.

Top Tip: Make sure you have your Track log in details to hand and when you log in check that your contact details are correct.

As you progress through Track, you will see that your choice(s) have been updated and in simple terms will show as:

UnconditionalYour place at the university and on the course has been confirmed. This may be your firm or insurance offer, or both.

Unconditional Changed CourseThis means that you don’t have the necessary grades for your offer, but the university has proposed a similar course requiring lower grades. The university may also offer an alternative start date, such as deferred entry. In general, you have five days to decide if you want to accept this offer, which allows you to discuss the opportunity with the university.

UnsuccessfulThis means that unfortunately you haven’t been accepted by your choice(s). However, all is not lost as you’re now eligible to enter university through Clearing

In the first two examples congratulations, you’ve secured a place at your chosen university! If you’re entering Clearing don’t worry, thousands do it every year and in some cases, students even choose to enter university through the Clearing process.

How will this all impact?

You never know what's around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you've climbed a mountain.” (Tom Hiddleston).

As soon as the letter is opened (assuming it’s a letter) and/or university places are known, there may be a whole host of emotions. The anticipatory anxiety may be quashed and replaced with excitement OR it may be that the anxiety turns into panic or more significant distress. For 17/18 year olds, whether they were studious over the last few of years or not, this moment can feel like the world is on their shoulders. And, not only are their own personal expectations at stake but they may also hold the pressure of family expectations too. So, it can be the most exhilarating moment for some and the most earth shattering for others. And there are others who may have mixed emotions. Perhaps they have wonderful A level news but they may have lost the person or people they wish to share this news with. Or perhaps, there is great excitement with their results and/or university offer but a sense of huge trepidation surrounding leaving home for the first time or moving away from school/college friends. It can sometimes be very difficult to predict the impact but as we know, there are usually significant casualties, reported in the press, as a result of A level results and individuals not hitting the mark. It’s therefore important to share information that may help this group of people.

"I feel a failure!"

Emotions are running high and reality is kicking in! Post-August 13th blues can be very common but for some, it’s more than the blues. A level results can really hit hard and, for some, it can feel as though their world is falling apart. If they don’t make the grade or feel as though they have failed themselves or their family or teachers, then this can be an incredibly tough time. It’s therefore important to remember that, whilst A levels have been the focus of attention for several years, this is not the be all and end all. There is SO much more to life than A level results and university acceptance.

To quote the great Baz Luhrman song, “The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year olds I know still don't".

A few different narratives may help here:

I completely flunked my A levels. Seriously my mind was completely elsewhere in the run up to them and I was not taking them anywhere near as seriously as perhaps I 'should' have done, or at least that's how I felt at the time. Beyond this however, I learnt a great deal about myself, my character, my ambitions, my way of being in the world. I definitely learnt through this adversity. In time, I came to flourish in a way I never thought possible. This wasn't overnight by any means but a steady process of growing, of maturing and becoming the person I wanted to be and working towards the goals I had set for myself. Through this experience came a newfound independence.

Another person I recall from my youth was absolutely desperate to become a physiotherapist and didn’t make the grade in biology. She was incredibly deflated but she picked herself back up again and spent the next year studying in order to reach the grade. Sadly, the same happened again… and again. But finally, three years on, she did it! And, to my knowledge, she still works as a physiotherapist today.

Something I find important to remember here is that A levels are exams that are set in a particularly difficult time of life. Adolescents are becoming adults, they are free to make more adult choices, having the opportunity to enjoy romantic relationships and the world is somehow more accessible to them, not to mention their raging hormones. Yet, they are expected to retain focus on their studies during this time and, in fact, to give more focus than ever to their academic life when there is so much of the world opening up to them for the first time. I’m continually surprised at how young adults retain their conscientiousness and commitment to their studies. I know that I found it incredibly difficult, in fact, almost impossible. It was later on that I found the zeal and passion to really study and work hard. I found psychology at degree level (this wasn’t open to me at A level sadly) and this was a life changer but even then, it wasn’t really until postgraduate study that I found my flare as I was finally specialising in an area I found to be so fascinating and it became a joy rather than a chore to learn.

Clinically, I work with young people who are completely at their wits end as a result of exam results, so even now I see how real the impact is and how life-changing it can be for individuals. Just having the opportunity to speak with a person who is completely outside of their situation and who can remain objective can make such a difference. Young people are often concerned about letting others' down and so will keep their emotions to themselves when really, they are breaking inside. It's so important to provide them with support and not to judge. Whatever their situation, they will always be their own worst critic and to have an inner voice that is negative can be hugely problematic to mental health. So, if you are a young person who's struggling or if you know a young person who is going through a tough time, please do reach out or encourage them to reach out for support. You may never know what a difference this might make!

Mental Health Support

If you are struggling with your mental health following A level results day and are experiencing crisis, there are a range of services available to support you. Here are a few to consider making contact with. Please do reach out:

Text the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger for free 24/7 support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis.

  • If you need urgent help, text YM to 85258.

  • All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

  • Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

Further information can be found at the website below:

You can also call Childline for free to speak to someone about what's happening and how you're feeling.

Find your local NHS urgent mental health helpline (England only) for 24-hour advice and support.

I'll end with this wonderful quote as a reminder that there is ALWAYS life beyond A levels results and sometimes, changes in our path can lead to great things:

There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.” (Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana).


Some 'practicalities' information retrieved from:

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